Space shooters have been a favorite of mine since the original Nintendo’s heyday. Games like Gradius, Darius Twin, R-Type and Raiden challenged players in a way that they had never been challenged before, drowning them in wave upon wave of enemy fighters and their bullets. These “bullet hell” or shump (short for shoot ’em ups) games made for an exhilarating time that was fun then and is still fun to this day. If you are a fan of shmups and are looking for something new to sink your teeth into, then UFO Interactive and Retroism have exactly what you’ve been looking for. Zotrix is a twin-stick space shooter that combines the retro look and feel of 80s and 90s arcade shmups with modern gameplay elements such as branching mission routes, story-driven quests, ship upgrades, resource trading and more.
This is where you can change the upgrades to your ship. Add shields, cannons, drones or nukes and escort the convoy to safety.
What sets Zotrix apart from other space shooters is that it actually has a very compelling story behind why you are in space trying to dispatch as many alien invaders as you can. Humanity has slowly but surely expanded its influence outside of its solar system when it encounters an alien menace. Your job is to simply defend the cargo ships that you have been charged with escorting from wave after wave of enemy combatants. The supplies that the cargo ships are transporting are vital to the many colonies that they are going to if humanity is going to be able to defend itself while continuing its expansion across the galaxy. You are not piloting any old space ship, but are at the helm of one of the most advanced space fighters known to man.
The Network Map allows you to see the available outposts and the paths that you can take to get to them.
The player has the freedom to choose which routes between outposts that they want to use to obtain resources in regions that are plentiful and to transport them back to markets that are in dire need in order to gain the best return on your investment. These earnings can then be used to enhance your ship with laser boosters, shields, decoys or even tactical nukes. Earn enough money in your travels and you can even purchase whole new ships that will make the aliens think twice about trying to take you out. The market for supplies and different element such as gold, ice, iron and nickel are always fluctuating so you need to have a good idea of which outpost offers the best prices. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the traders market will not only allow you to purchase the very best for your space fighter, but can make you a very wealthy space jockey.
The Station Stores offer different items depending on which station you are at. Prices will vary for identical items so make a note of the prices for future reference so you don’t spend more than you need to.
The graphics in Zotrix pay homage to a time when gaming consoles might not have been the most powerful, but game designers were able to get the most out of those primitive machines by being creative and pushing the technology to its very limits. The game sports a really cool pixelated art style that gives it a character all its own while offering tight gameplay and a lot of player choice in how certain elements in the game look such as the design of the ship. The bulk of the game happens against the black background of deep space but the enemy designs are very colorful and offer enough in the way of variation to keep the visuals fresh as you make your way up in levels. The soundtrack in the game is one of the best that I have heard this year and does a great job of keeping the stages feeling fresh and exciting. The tempo of the many different tracks that you will hear are very upbeat and fit in well with the white-knuckle action happening on screen.
The Trading Room allows you to trade the items that you have too much of for the items that you need. The prices of certain elements like gold will fluctuate so buy when they are low and sell when they are high.
Zotrix is a fast and furious game that will keep you on the edge of your seat as countless waves of enemy fighters will do whatever they can to stop you from getting the cargo to the next destination. You have to keep moving at all times because if you don’t, you will be a sitting duck just waiting to get picked off. One issue that I had with the game, however, is that there was a weird effect that would seem to glue my fighter to the edge of the screen if I flew too close to it and I would have to stop firing my weapons in order for my ship to be able to continue flying around the screen. While you would think that this would be a game breaker, other than being a little annoying, it really isn’t. I just learned not to fly too close to the edge and as it turns out not flying too close to the edges is a good thing as you never know when the next group of enemy ships is going to come flying onto the screen in attack mode.
The white object in the middle of the screen is a weapon power up. You can collect up to three for the maximum amount and wipe the screen clear of enemy fighters.
Overall, I was very impressed with how Zotrix was able to suck me in and keep me trying to complete the next level. It was always one more level, just one more level and before I knew it, I had been playing for way longer than I had originally planned. There is so much to do in this game that it somehow transcends being just a space shooter. While being a shmup is at the core of what this game is all about, the resource trading feature combined with the ship customization feature comes together to offer something fresh to the gaming landscape. You can download Zotrix now on the PSN for $14.99 which is a great price for all that this game has to offer.
Who would have thought escorting cargo through deep space could be so exciting.
Challenge - 9/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Design - 8/10
+ Fast-paced, twitch-based combat
+ Many different ways to customize your ship
+ You choose your path through the game
- Small glitches can get you killed
- Enemy groups usually attack in the same pattern even on different levels